In his announcement to employees Monday, Donald Graham quoted billionaire investor Warren E. Buffett, a longtime adviser to The Post Co., as calling Bezos “the ablest CEO in America.”
Bezos’s reputation and smarts made him attractive as a buyer of The Post, Weymouth said in an interview. “He’s everything we were looking for — a business leader with a track record of entrepreneurship who believes in our values and cares about journalism, and someone who was willing to pay a fair price to our shareholders,” she said.
Weymouth said the decision to sell The Post sprang from annual budget discussions she had with Graham late last year. “We talked about whether [The Washington Post Co.] was the right place to house The Post,” she said. “If journalism is the mission, given the pressures to cut costs and make profits, maybe [a publicly traded company] is not the best place for The Post.”
Any buyer, she said, “had to share our values and commitment to journalism or we wouldn’t sell it.”
The sale to Bezos involves The Post and its Web site (washingtonpost.com), along with the Express newspaper, the Gazette Newspapers and Southern Maryland Newspapers in suburban Washington, the Fairfax County Times, the Spanish-language newspaper El Tiempo Latino, and the Robinson Terminal production plant in Springfield. Bezos will also purchase the Comprint printing operation in Gaithersburg, which produces several military publications.
The deal does not include the company’s headquarters on 15th Street NW (the building has been for sale since February) or Foreign Policy magazine, the Web sites Slate and the Root, the WaPo Labs digital development operation, or Post-owned land along the Potomac River in Alexandria.
The Post under the Grahams
The Post, founded in 1877, has been controlled since 1933 by the heirs of Eugene Meyer, a Wall Street financier and former Federal Reserve official. Meyer bought the paper for $825,000 at a bankruptcy auction during the depth of the Depression.
After years of financial struggle, Meyer and his successor as publisher of The Post, son-in-law Philip L. Graham, steered the paper into a leading position among Washington’s morning newspapers. They began expanding the company, notably by acquiring TV stations and Newsweek magazine in 1963. (The company sold the magazine for a nominal fee to billionaire Sidney Harman in 2010 after years of losses.) In later years, the company added cable TV systems and the Kaplan educational division, currently the company’s largest by revenue.